Zaheer Khan
Zaheer KhanReuters

India has recalled Zaheer Khan to the 17-man Test squad for the upcoming tour of South Africa, while there was no place for Gautam Gambhir.

Zaheer becomes part of a five-man fast bowling line-up for the two-match Test series, joining the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma.

The tour, which will see the two sides play three ODIs followed by two Tests, starts on 5 December. 

Incidentally, 13 players from the 15-man squad for the two Tests against West Indies were retained. Sachin Tendulkar had decided to hang up his boots after his epic 200th Test, while Amit Mishra missed out. Other than Zaheer, Ambati Rayudu, Wriddhiman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja were the new entrants to the Test squad.

The inclusion of Zaheer was kind of a no-brainer, considering the out-of-form Ishant was the only other bowler in the squad, with experience of South African conditions at the international level.

Zaheer, who last played for India in the Tests against England last December, has found some momentum in the domestic circles, taking 13 wickets in three Ranji matches for Mumbai, including a five-wicket scalp.

However, the slight surprise was the omission of opener Gambhir, despite the veteran scoring a century for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy, days before the selection meeting.

The absence of Gambhir means captain MS Dhoni and Cheteshwar Pujara are the only two batsmen in squad who have played a Test in South Africa before. Dhoni and Zaheer are also the only two players over 30 in the squad. 

Pacemen Ishant and Umesh find themselves in the ODI squad as well, replacing Jaydev Unadkat and Vinay Kumar from the team for the West Indies ODIs. Meanwhile, veterans Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh have been left out of both squads, while Ajinkya Rahane has been included in both. 

Test squad: MS Dhoni (c & wk), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kolhi, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Zaheer Khan, Ravindra Jadeja, Ambati Rayudu, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha.

ODI squad: MS Dhoni (c & wk), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Zaheer Khan, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Mohit Sharma, Amit Mishra.